I bear a curmudgeonly lack of good grace toward Queens, my homeland, and especially towards Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Growing up, we never thought of it as anything but a sad afterthought to the World's Fair, whose rusting relics we'd pass on the way home from "the city." Ironically, the Spouse--a Brooklyn boy--had a job within the park for more than a decade, where he nurtured an obsessional love for all things World's Fair. In this underwhelmingly celebrated anniversary year of the 1964 fair, we went today to the "World's Fair Play Festival" at the Queens Theatre in the Park.
The set of interconnected playlets, set across decades in the '39 and '64 fairs and the present day, varied widely in quality, but some were excellent (especially "In the Hall of Artifacts," a haunting glimpse by Todd Almond of a brother and sister long after '64, in the age of HIV); and the notion of commissioning them and presenting them right within the old fairgrounds was wonderful. The cast gave it their all in a tiny black-box theatre, evoking a collage of human response to the fairs' pie-eyed optimism about Progress and The Future.
Afterwards, we wandered around the realtime, real place in its most quintessential present personality: We stumbled upon the riotous color, music and dance of a Colombian festival. The Colombian flag was a lively counterpoint to the dystopian sight of the old New York Pavilion.
A pair of folkloric dancers entertained a crowd in the shadow of the Unisphere as jets roared overhead on takeoff from LaGuardia.
We wrapped up the day with an iced coffee doused with caramel and condensed milk from a Colombian coffee cart that drew long, avid lines of old-school java-lovers. Garbage cans overflowed; cars nosed past masses of oblivious pedestrians as the fair wound down. In all its messy reality, the park remains a truer global village now than it ever was in the Imagineered version.